Peter Linehan was a scholar of international renown, and he earned great distinction as a historian of medieval Spain. Many Johnians will have known him, whether as Tutor, Director of Studies or Supervisor, and others subsequently as Dean. He loved being inscrutable, but that did not deceive for long. His hospitality was legendary and his loyal friendship, often extending over decades, enriched countless lives. With his death something of the spirit of the College has departed too.Professor Malcolm Schofield
Peter and the College
In the College and the wider academic community, Dr Peter Linehan was a person held in high regard, not least for his speed of mind and amusing, if occasionally enigmatic, conversation. Over his 54 years as a Fellow of St John’s, he served as a Tutor, Tutor for Graduate Affairs and Director of Studies – and he was equally loved, and only occasionally feared, during his entertaining 11-year reign as Dean. Peter’s deep and abiding commitment to the College’s values and traditions and his eminence as a historian made him the obvious choice to edit the twentieth century chapter of St John’s College Cambridge: A History, published to mark the College’s Quincentenary in 2011.
Peter Linehan’s penetrating command of medieval history, and of medieval Spain in particular, has inspired many students and colleagues in his field. He leaves a permanently important corpus of knowledge, and his approach is an inspiration for other scholars to question received dogma, wherever in the world they engage with the subject in the future. Throughout his half century and more at St John’s, Peter developed strong personal ties – not only with students and colleagues in the College and University but also with numerous colleagues in the UK, Europe and beyond. He was frequently consulted on all manner of issues relating to medieval history and its study, and he welcomed many visiting historians to St John’s. He was a beacon of insight and wisdom, particularly for younger scholars beginning their research journeys who much appreciated the benefit of the sustained attention and help he gave them so generously.
In Peter’s memory, St John’s College is launching a fund to support the research of those in the early stages of their work on the medieval Mediterranean world. Peter was deeply concerned about the barriers in the way of talented young academics, particularly the lack of funding for research, and especially when set against the rising costs of getting to the places and the papers that hold the secrets of the past.
A much-loved Fellow, and a friend to many, Peter would often exert his wits and charm to creative use, whether that was negotiating his way into the archives at Toledo Cathedral or simply excusing yet another game of room cricket gone wrong. Many Johnians who knew him will wish to help mark his life and work by furthering aims that were particularly important to him.
We know that Peter would be delighted to be the cause of such practical and enriching support for generations of scholars to come.
I was one of the legion of former pupils who became a friend. I recall with pleasure (but also sadness) that inexhaustible fund of stories – from the eighteenth-century First Court murder to the night climbs (and climbers) of St John’s and the social (and romantic) impact of the winter of 1963 when the Cam froze and the College defences were breached. I remember also his delight in the arcana of College history, which informed his richly detailed and authoritative contribution as author of the Twentieth Century chapter of St John’s College Cambridge: A History, the volume he masterminded and edited for the 500th anniversary. But, above all, I remember his constant concern for others, be they older colleagues, younger scholars or troubled pupils. To all those in his generous orbit he offered wise counsel and thoroughly practical support. He will be much missed.Graham Harding (1968)
We hope that you will support our aim to build on Dr Linehan's legacy of scholarship and research in the medieval Mediterranean world.
This fund will provide grants for doctoral students and post-doctoral research scholars, to whom he gave so much time, advice and encouragement, and it will enable them to access important archives and share their research widely. With enough support, we hope to create an endowed fund substantial enough to sustain these activities in perpetuity.Donate
Why does St John’s need to fundraise for this project? Read more about College finances.